Mortgage Loan Insurance: Quick Reference Guide

This handy quick reference tool provides helpful information to submit applications to CMHC for homeowner and small rental loans, for all CMHC programs: Purchase, Improvement, Newcomers, Self-Employed, Green Home, Portability, and Income Property.

Benefits of mortgage insurance

Some of the benefits of CMHC mortgage loan insurance include:

  • Available for purchase of an existing residential property with or without improvements and for new construction financing.
  • Our Green Home program offers a partial mortgage loan insurance premium refund of up to 25%. Refunds are available directly to borrowers who buy, build or renovate for energy efficiency using CMHC-insured financing. Find out more with our Green Home Program.
  • Self-employed borrowers with documentation to support their income have access to CMHC mortgage loan insurance.
  • Our portability feature saves money for repeat users of mortgage loan insurance by reducing or eliminating the premium payable on the new insured loan for the purchase of a subsequent home.

Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratios

For homeowner loans (owner-occupied properties), the Loan-to-Value ratio for 1–2 units is up to 95% LTV. For 3–4 units, the ratio is up to 90% LTV.

For small rental loans (non-owner occupied), the ratio is up to 80% LTV.

Minimum equity requirements

For homeowner loans, the minimum equity requirement for 1–2 units is 5% of the first $500,000 of lending value and 10% of the remainder of the lending value. For 3–4 units, the minimum equity requirement is 10%.

For small rental loans, the minimum equity requirement is 20%.

Purchase price / lending value, amortization and location

For both homeowner and small rental loans, the maximum purchase price / lending value or as-improved property value must be below $1,000,000.

The maximum amortization period is 25 years.

The property must be located in Canada and must be suitable and available for full-time, year-round occupancy. The property must also have year-round access including homes located on an island (via a vehicular bridge or ferry).

Traditional and non-traditional down payments

traditional down payment comes from sources such as savings, the sale of a property, or a non-repayable financial gift from a relative.

non-traditional down payment must be arm’s length and not tied to the purchase and sale of the property, either directly or indirectly such as unsecured personal loans or unsecured lines of credit. Non-traditional down payments are available for 1–2 units, with 90.01% to 95% LTV, with a recommended minimum credit score of 650.

Creditworthiness

At least one borrower (or guarantor) must have a minimum credit score of 600. In certain circumstances, a higher recommended minimum credit score may be required. CMHC may consider alternative methods of establishing creditworthiness for borrowers without a credit history.

Debt service guidelines

The standard threshold is GDS 35% / TDS 42%. The maximum threshold is GDS 39% / TDS 44% (recommended minimum credit score of 680). CMHC considers the strength of the overall mortgage loan insurance application including the recommended minimum credit scores.

Interest rates

The GDS and TDS ratios must be calculated using an interest rate which is the greater of the contract interest rate or the Bank of Canada’s 5-year conventional mortgage interest rate.

Advancing options

Single advances include improvement costs less than or equal to 10% of the as-improved value.

Progress advances include new construction financing or improvement costs greater than 10% of the as-improved value. With Full Service, CMHC validates up to 4 consecutive advances at no cost. For Basic Service, the Lender validates advances without pre-approval from CMHC.

Non-permanent residents (homeowner loans only)

Non-permanent residents must be legally authorized to work in Canada (i.e. a work permit). Mortgage loan insurance is only available for non-permanent residents for homeowner loans for 1 unit, up to 90% LTV, with a down payment from traditional sources.

-CMHC

What to know if you’re considering a mortgage from an alternative lender.

Samantha Brookes has been warning Canadians to take a close look at the clauses in their mortgage contracts for years, but her refrain has become a bit more prevalent in recent months.

Since the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions’ mortgage stress test was implemented in January, the founder of the Mortgages of Canada brokerage has seen “a huge influx” of Canadians who fail to qualify for a bank mortgage turning to alternative lenders that range from risky loan sharks to larger, more conventional companies like Home Trust.

While alternative lenders can provide a lifeline for Canadians who have run out of other financing options, Brookes said they come with pitfalls for those who don’t bother looking at the fine print.

“You need to read those contracts,” she said. “(With an alternative lender), the interest rates are higher, the qualifying rate is higher than if you were going with a traditional bank and they are going to charge one per cent of the mortgage amount (as a lender’s fee) for closing, so that means your closing costs increase.”

Alternative lenders tend to offer less wiggle room on their terms, so Brookes said that means you should pay special attention to another dangerous term she’s seen slipped into mortgage contracts: the sale-only clause.

It’s less common, Brookes said, but if left in, it might mean the only way you can break your mortgage is by selling your home. She usually makes sure it’s nixed from her clients contracts immediately.

She also advises mortgage-seekers to research a potential lender’s reputation, which can easily be done online. Looking up some lenders will reveal their involvement in growing strings of court cases, she said.

“If they are constantly in court fighting with consumers for money, are you willing to put yourself at risk with that kind of person?” Brookes recommended asking yourself.

Still, she said alternative lenders “that don’t end up in court every two seconds” are out there and can offer a good mortgage, if you do your research.

Broker Ron Alphonso has seen what happens when you don’t look into your lender. He recently heard from a couple who borrowed $100,000 via a paralegal posing as a broker, who then convinced the couple to give the money back to him so he could invest it on their behalf. Instead of investing it, the paralegal disappeared to Sri Lanka with the funds, leaving the couple on the hook for the money and resulting in eviction from their home.

“They got very, very poor advice,” Alphonso said. “Apparently the person that arranged the mortgage was an agent and paralegal that has since been disbarred. If they had a lawyer working for them, at least the lawyer could have said (before they signed the mortgage) maybe this isn’t right.”

Alphonso recommends seeking advice from a broker, who he said should also be questioned about how tolerant a lender will be if you were to default on one of your payments.

Some lenders quickly force their clients into a power-of-sale or foreclosure, while others will find a way to work out an arrangement that will allow them to keep their home.

“If you are already in some kind of financial problem and you go to a lender that is not flexible, you make the situation worse,” Alphonso said. “If you miss one payment, (within) 15 days you can be in power-of-sale.”

When that happens, he often sees people refuse to leave their home and try to fight the power-of-sale or foreclosure. They take the matter to court and end up spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees that can eclipse any remaining equity they might have in their home.

If they lose their case, which Alphonso said happens often, they end up with a massive lawyer’s bill, no equity to cover it and no place to live.

That’s part of why he said those seeking financing should have an exit strategy to get out of any mortgages they sign with an alternative or private lender with a higher interest rate.

“Your goal should always be to get to a lower interest rate,” he said. “If they don’t go in with a true goal of how to get out of this private mortgage, there will be a problem down the road.”

Alphonso recommended looking for an open mortgage, where you can prepay any amount at any time without a compensation charge or a prepayment limit that you would often find in a closed mortgage.

Open mortgages come with higher interest rates, but give buyers the option to switch to a cheaper lender if something happens. However, switching does often come with penalties, he said.

Because some agents and brokers don’t give enough information or fully explain penalties and clauses, he said the best way to keep out of trouble when seeking a mortgage is to ask lots of questions and understand what you’re getting into before signing on the dotted line.

-TARA DESCHAMPS, Globe & Mail

Condominium Property act. New changes April 1.18

RECA News

Beginning April 1, 2018, if a consumer is buying a new condominium in Alberta from a developer – an Alberta lawyer must hold the buyer’s purchase deposit in trust while the condominium is being built. Service Alberta announced this change in October 2017.

Prior to April 1, a real estate brokerage or the condominium developer could hold a buyer’s deposit in trust.

Real estate professionals who are representing buyers during their purchase of a new condominium from a developer should confirm the developer uses a lawyer who is an active member of the Law Society of Alberta, and that they operate a trust account under the Legal Profession Act. You must also ensure your clients write their deposit cheques to the developer’s lawyer, in trust, and not to the developer or a real estate brokerage.

Under this new rule, a developer who receives a buyer’s deposit must ensure their lawyer deposits it in the lawyer’s trust account within three business days of receiving it. If the developer agrees, a buyer can have their own lawyer hold their deposit in trust.

Take a few minutes to review the Condominium Developer Info Sheet from Service Alberta for more information about additional Condominium Property Act changes coming on April 1.

Real Estate Council of Alberta

T: 1-888-425-2754

F: (403) 228-3065

communications@reca.ca

www.reca.ca

How to choose the right Agent Part 3 – Things you need know before you list your home

Over the last two days we have talked about your Realtors networks and Passive vs. Active Marketing but there are a few things that you should know about listing your home that will set you up for success when you are ready to put your house on the market!

  1. Neat and Tidy

We know that you love your home, and you might have kids and kids can be messy, or maybe you have pets and sometimes pets smell. Realtors have homes, with all of these same things, I promise we don’t all live in pristine real estate marvels, in fact if you walk into my house I can promise you will be tripped by a hockey stick or a dog toy, BUT I cannot emphasize this enough, your home needs to be spotless for photos and for showings. it sucks, we all know this, it is hard to keep your home in show home shape, but it will not sell if it isn’t. Try and have it “show home” clean when you have your Realtor interview so that they can get a clear picture of what your home looks like on its best day!

2. Listen to your Lister

You are obviously going to have a conversation with your Realtor about the listing price of your home. Realtors have tools that they use to identify what your home should be listed at, these tools (called CMA, which we will talk about in a later post) combined with a savvy understanding of the current market conditions your Realtor can usually pin point pretty close what your home should be listed at and ultimately what it should sell for. One fatal flaw in home owners is that they don’t listen to this number, typically because they think their house is worth more. Some Realtors will push back because of knowledge and expertise, some will take the listing at a higher price tag, simply to get your listing… when this happens you can find yourself in a vortex of price dropping and haggling with offers when and if they come in. If your home is priced right (not too high or too low) it will sell. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about list price, but ultimately if your Realtor has stats to back the price point… take their advice.

3. Clear the Clutter 

This is your home, of course you would have personal touches, nik naks and frames. maybe some crazy feature walls, or novelty rooster collections. We know you love these items, we do too. BUT potential buyers don’t. Most people when viewing a home cannot look past the esthetic and see true potential of their own items in a home, in fact they have the same problem with empty spaces. This is why a staged home will always sell faster 10/10 times. You can start this by packing up any personalized items and clutter. particularly toys, and collections, photos and other chachkeys that can be distracting for the potential buyer. Think of it as a head start on packing for your move out!

4. Be flexible and realistic

Thinking about upcoming showings can be overwhelming and daunting, but showings are good, they are the pass that takes you right to the touchdown, showings is where your offer will come from. The worst part; showings aren’t typically a 9:00-5:00 job. Now, this is still your home, you call the shots. It is really important that you are as flexible and realistic when setting schedules with your agent. If you have a 2 year old, maybe any showings after 7:00pm aren’t acceptable, maybe you need 24 hours notice before a showing, these are normal requests and completely acceptable! it is your home after all. Set clear expectations with your agent, but be mindful that if they call you and someone wants to see your house in the next 3 hours and you say no… that could have been the person who wanted to buy it.

5.  Be patient, and communicate 

If you have questions about your listing, the market, the last showing… the weather you need to know that you should be asking! Your agent should be keeping you informed about your listing, but if you’re not getting what you need, call them! Some agents even have review software that will generate feedback immediately following a showing, really good agents follow up with the buyers agent to try and close a deal, or at the very least find out why they didn’t choose your home, and the Great agents bring in their own buyers… from that network we talked about!

How to choose the right Agent Part 2 – Active Marketing

How important is marketing in Real Estate you ask? In short… it is incredibly important, in fact it can mean the difference between a sale and you sitting frustrated on your property for months, it can also be the difference in your listing becoming stale in the market because it sits for too long with little to no exposure.

I like to think that every Realtor has their own tips and tricks that they use to generate business, employ smart marketing techniques and do the very best for their client. The truth is, at the end of the day it breaks down to two types of agents. Active and Passive Marketers.

  • Passive Marketing

Every Realtor does this, and some pawn it off as highly effective marketing tools, but at the end of the day they are waiting for the business to find them. Waiting for the buyer to call. Passive marketing is listing the home on MLS, putting it on a website, (that may or may not generate google ad words). There is nothing wrong with passive marketing, and every Realtor should do it because there is always the online buyer who shops around and can and will find you on MLS, but it isn’t exceeding expectations and it isn’t going above and beyond.

  • Active Marketing 

Active marketing is when the rubber meets the road. We talked in my previous post about SELRES_9462f936-7d9e-4c3b-a82d-5fcb73a642d1NetworksSELRES_9462f936-7d9e-4c3b-a82d-5fcb73a642d1and this has a lot to do with that. Active marketing is when your Agent is actively searching the market for a buyer for your home. They can do this through their network, through lead capture services that they can deploy through various social media channels, and their website. Your Realtor should create a brand for your home. Does your Realtor use a professional photographer? are they a professional photographer? do they do home staging? what do they charge for home staging? All of these tools tie together and make your home sale something extra special, not just another MLS number on the proverbial YYC Real Estate shelf. Now, marketing costs money! The right kind of marketing costs lots of money! This is why you hire a Realtor, so you don’t have to navigate this alone. Always make sure to ask what the price tag is attached to any marketing plan when you are discussing commissions, offering photos and home staging is great, but ensure you know what that will cost you in the end. We will talk about where your money is going in a later post!

Kevin D’Costa Fun Fact! Did you know that I am an accredited staging professional RE. Did you also know that I offer this service to all of my clients? The best part, you rarely have to run out and buy thousands of dollars worth of furniture, usually just some minor esthetic and décor items are enough!

The point I am trying to make is this; When you’re interviewing a Realtor do not be afraid to ask them what exactly they are going to do for you? how are they going to market your home? Now that you know if you get the “I have a great webpage and I will list it on MLS” are the wrong answers, you can ask for more. expect more!

How to choose the right Agent Part 1 – What is in a Network

I have always received these questions, periodically, but lately it seems like almost daily I am asked “how do I choose the right realtor to sell my home”. I have always been an advocate of interviewing agents and ensuring that you have the right fit for you. You should never choose a Realtor without knowing and understanding how they are going to work for you! I am writing a part mini series that will include some insider tips on what to look for in a Realtor and very specific things to ask while you’re interviewing. Choosing someone to sell your home is a very important choice, I want to make sure you know what to look for!

A Realtors network is like a golden ticket. Most might think “The bigger the team and the fancier the website the quicker the sale” This isn’t necessarily true. Your realtor should have a network of potential buyers, sellers, Realtors, Mortgage professionals, lenders and brokers that work as a team to get the job done. Ask your Realtor about his or her professional network, you very well could be interviewing a Realtor that has a client just waiting to put an offer in on your home, they were simply waiting for that special something to come along. Real Estate professionals can’t work in silos, the biggest key to success in Real Estate is to have a respected group of people who you connect with regularly.

I recently did a study on first time home buyers in Alberta. 23% of those who responded said that they were not in the market to buy a home. The top reasons being 1. down payment and 2. Mortgage approval. As the study continued it became glaringly obvious that for MOST of this 23% home ownership was actually attainable, they simply were not educated or up to date on what options are available to them. My point here is this; Take **John and Susie for example. Looking for their dream home which is a 1200sq ft. front attached garage home in Windsong. They believed they would never qualify so they were waiting and saving… waiting… and saving. I had the opportunity to list a 1300sqft home in Windsong that would be PERFECT for this growing family. You guessed right… Because I have a trusted network of professionals we had their down payment sorted out, had them Mortgaged (with a pretty great rate to boot) and into this home. Their Mortgage payment is less than they were paying in rent and they OWN it! All of this they originally thought was unattainable. Now, This is a stellar example because Bob and Betty were able to sell their home before it even hit MLS for 24 hours and John and Susie were home owners, but not unrealistic with the right opportunity and the right network of Real Estate wizards working together! Every thing is impossible if you don’t try! Your Realtor should always try! with everything they have got! So when you’re interviewing, ask them this; “What does your professional network look like, and how are you going to step up to the plate for me?”

** Names and communities changed for privacy

Change is good

Loyal followers, clients and friends. As some of you may have noticed, change is in the air! With a new year, brings new challenges and opportunities. Being a successful Realtor is one of my life’s greatest accomplishments, mostly because of the connections I make, relationships I foster and dreams I help make a reality the moment I hand over the keys to what is likely your greatest investment. your home. I have worked at CIR as a realtor for nearly a decade, growing my business and taking full advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me. I have nothing but respect, and admiration for the brokerage that helped to build my career. Those who know me best know that my ambitions are great, and I have to consistently set new goals. Professionally I have decided to move my business under a new roof with Re/max First. A reputable and respected brokerage that can offer me international exposure under the Re/max brand. My excitement is palpable, and I am thrilled to get my new signs up on some lawns in the coming weeks.

I have taken January to rebuild my brand, be mindful of my decision, and ignite the fire inside me that is going to kill it in this Calgary Real Estate Market for 2018. You will see me donning the Blue and Red. Nothing more has changed but that. My clients can rely on the same honest, patient and loyal service you have all grown to refer and respect!

Onward and Upward!

  • Special thanks to Dave Anderson and the team at CIR, you have been a great leader and a tremendous support throughout my transition
  • Special Thanks to Rick Campos, Cliff Stevenson the team at Re/max First who have welcomed me, and supported my business.

 

Kevin D’Costa 
YYCREAGENT 

Thinking about buying a home? Here are a few cold, hard facts to chew on

You want to be the king or queen of your own castle. But how do you conquer this daunting feat, given that in big cities, so-called starter castles can cost more than $1-million? To help you navigate one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make in your life, here are some answers to commonly asked questions for first-time home buyers.

How do I know if I’m money-ready to be a home owner?

Look at your lifestyle and ask yourself, “Am I ready to commit?” Do you have stable income and can you plant roots for a few years?

“With the transactional costs of real estate, you have to stay put for five years to make up your money,” says 31-year-old Sean Cooper, who paid off his $450,000 mortgage in three years and authored the upcoming book, Burn Your Mortgage.

Next, crunch some numbers to determine if you can afford the home you want. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says your monthly housing costs (mortgage payments, taxes, heating, condo fees, etc.) shouldn’t be more than 32 per cent of your gross monthly income. Use mortgage payment calculators. Ask other homeowners how much owning their homes cost. And don’t forget to add in the closing costs.

“A lot of people assume that renting costs the same amount monthly as owning a house but that’s not true,” Cooper says. “Home ownership costs come with a lot more expenses such as home insurance, repairs and maintenance. A good rule of thumb is to budget 1 to 3 per cent of the purchase price of per year to repair and maintenance.”

How the heck do I amass a down payment?

“Beg your mom and dad,” says James Laird, president of Broker of Record. “We’re seeing that family members are willing to help.”

Millennials were 47 per cent more likely than generation Xers to have received help from family for a down payment on their first home, according to a recent RateHub report.

For those who don’t have that option, it’s going to take sacrifice and hustling. See if your parents will allow you to move home temporarily — almost 40 per cent of Millennials have moved back home at some point, a TD survey says — or if you can downgrade your living expenses, for example, by finding a roommate. Do what you can to boost your income and your savings, whether that’s reducing spending or negotiating for a raise or working that side hustle.

Also, under the home buyers’ plan, first-time home buyers can take $25,000 out of their registered retirement savings plan and pay it back over the next 15 years without incurring any penalty. For a couple that means $50,000.

Should I wait and save up 20 per cent or just put down the minimum 5 per cent?

Buyers who put down less than 20 per cent must purchase mortgage default insurance; they also may also qualify to borrow less. So, if you’re in an affordable housing market, aim for 20 per cent. (For the average Canadian home, which costed $474,590 in December, that’s a $94,918 downpayment.)

“If you’re waiting for a 20 per cent downpayment in a big city and you don’t have parental help, you’re going to be waiting a long time,” says Kerri-Lynn McAllister of RateHub. You then run the risk of being priced out of the market if prices continue to rise. “If you’re looking at [waiting] years, then it may not make sense,” McAllister adds. “[The insurance] is not a cost that you often feel because it’s rolled into your mortgage.”

What are my borrowing options?

“Do your research and compare your rates online,” McAllister says. “Even doing that research ahead of time and bringing that number to your bank and asking if they can match it, is also very prudent. You don’t want to take the first offer.”

Shopping can be complicated so consider getting a mortgage broker — an intermediary who is connected to multiple lenders and who shops around for the best deal for you (they are paid a finders fee from the lender), she says.

Vancouver-based online lender Mogo recently unveiled a mortgage platform geared to Millennials; the digital dashboard walks users through the process and allows them to apply for a mortgage online. “The application takes four minutes,” says Chantel Chapman, a credit expert and financial fitness coach with Mogo. “It’s all about the experience with a mortgage specialist and the convenience of doing it online.”

When you’re shopping for a mortgage, don’t just look at rates. Look at the penalties if you end up breaking your mortgage and check out pre-payment privileges such as being able to make lump sum payments, increase your payments and double up on payments.

The house that I want is out of my reach. Now what?

“People have to manage their expectations,” McAllister says. “The dream of home ownership doesn’t have to be equated with a detached house because that can be a stretch in cities like Toronto or Vancouver. People should start looking at different types of homes to fulfill like that dream; town houses and family-friendly condos are good alternatives.” Consider other options such as buying outside of the core or buying with family or friends.

-Financial Post

Canada’s Banks Resist Plan For Them To Take On More Mortgage Risk

Canada’s banking industry association has criticized a federal Liberal proposal that would see them take on more of the risk involved in lending out mortgages.

The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) said in a submission to the Department of Finance that the proposal would “undermine” access to mortgages for Canadians, by increasing mortgage rates, reducing competition and excluding some people from getting mortgages at all.

The proposal would see mortgage lenders pay a deductible on their insurance when a mortgage defaults. Currently, mortgage insurance covers the full cost of a defaulted mortgage.

That arrangement has some critics worried about “moral hazard”: Since someone else pays when things go wrong, the banks have little incentive to make sure that their insured mortgages have been lent out responsibly.

Many organizations, including the IMF, have suggested that the government phase out or privatize the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the country’s government-run mortgage insurer, in order to reduce risk in the housing market.

But the CBA’s report argues, in essence, that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“Canada’s housing finance system has demonstrated considerable resilience and stability over time,” the report said, referring to the fact that Canada avoided the U.S.’s housing crash last decade.

“The historical success of Canada’s system creates a strong presumption in favour of existing arrangements.”

The report argues that forcing the banks to take on more of the risk of insured mortgages would make it riskier for lenders, which means they would demand higher mortgage rates.

Additionally, it would mean some regional and smaller lenders, who depend more on insured mortgages, would stop lending, reducing competition.

“The impact would be particularly acute for first-time homebuyers,” the report stated.

Though Canada’s banks have been lauded in recent years for being well-run and well-capitalized, many organizations have less positive things to say about Canadians’ household debt, which has been driven by rising mortgages and is now the highest in the G7, at 166 per cent of disposable income.

The Parliamentary Budget Office warned last year that Canadians risk a debt crisis by 2020 if interest rates were to rise.

The CBA argued in its report that lenders vigorously stress-test their mortgage portfolios to ensure borrowers can still afford their mortgages should mortgage rates go up.

-The Huffington Post Canada

Banks’ dirty little secret: You can hold your mortgage in your RRSP — but is it worth the trouble?

There are a lot of reasons why holding your mortgage in your RRSP is appealing. And there are a lot of people who could be candidates for the strategy. But I am going to let you in on a dirty little secret — the financial industry does not want you to know about holding your mortgage in your RRSP in the first place.

Many investors are still affected by the global financial crisis nearly ten years later. It was the collapse of the subprime mortgage market in the United States in 2007 that began the domino effect. It is hard to believe a decade has passed.

Since then, stock and real estate markets have had a profound emotional impact on investing for Gen Xers and Millennials. Canadians born after the baby boom that ended in 1964 were entering their 40s when the global financial crisis ensued. This is an age when many people are moving into larger, more expensive homes and simultaneously ramping up their retirement savings.

Younger generations of Canadians have therefore experienced a period when rising real estate is taking an ever larger share of their family budget, often at the expense of traditional investing. It has also been a period during which many people have felt that real estate has nowhere to go but up and is the best investment around.

This preference for real estate over stocks is further reinforced by the fear instilled by the 35 per cent drop in Canadian stocks experienced by the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2008. According to a recent poll by Mackenzie Investments, “younger Canadians are significantly more likely to have negative feelings around RRSP season, while those in the 55+ age group appear more positive.”

Younger Canadians certainly have not had the same hesitation regarding real estate and mortgages, continuing to push real estate prices to all-time highs and doing so on the back of more and more debt.

So holding your mortgage in your RRSP can be appealing to younger Canadians, as well as anyone looking for higher yielding investments in a low yield world.

If someone wants to hold their mortgage in their RRSP, the first step is to find an institution that will allow you to do so. Your RRSP with your investment adviser or your bank is likely not an option. You will need a self-directed RRSP from an institution like Olympia Trust, B2B Bank, Canadian Western Trust or a handful of other trust companies or banks.

You will have to undergo the same income verification requirements and approval processes as you would with a regular mortgage. So holding your mortgage in your RRSP is not a way to borrow more money than you would otherwise be able to borrow conventionally.

The applicable interest rate will be the posted rate — not the discounted rate that most of us are accustomed to paying. This means more interest on your mortgage payments, but that is offset by high interest income for your RRSP.

There are fees involved, including appraisal fees, administrative charges, self-directed RRSP fees, mortgage insurance and so on. Set-up fees could be a couple of thousand dollars and ongoing costs could be a couple of hundred dollars each year.

Once set up, you make regular payments to your RRSP the same way you would otherwise do to the bank. The mortgage payments accumulate in cash in your RRSP and can then be invested into other investments. The principal and interest calculations are the same as with any regular mortgage.

Of note is that payments are not considered RRSP contributions. And just like your regular mortgage, you cannot miss payments. It does not matter that you are both the lender and the borrower. The trustee that holds your mortgage is responsible for initiating foreclosure if you do not keep up.

Much of the advice I have come across about holding your mortgage in your RRSP suggests that you need to have a large RRSP or a small mortgage to consider the strategy. That is not true, as the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) states that “there is no income tax requirement that such mortgages be a first mortgage or (even) a residential mortgage.”

On that basis, you can hold a portion of your overall mortgage debt on a property in your RRSP and another portion as a regular mortgage with a conventional lender. That said, the cost and time to set up a small mortgage in your RRSP may not be worth it.

It is also interesting to note that the CRA does not prevent you from holding a commercial property mortgage in your RRSP or even a rental property mortgage. These mortgages would be even more appealing mortgages to hold in your RRSP because if you are using these properties to earn rental income, the interest you are paying — to yourself in your RRSP — is tax deductible on your personal tax return. Furthermore, the interest rate on these mortgages may be higher than the interest rate on a residential 1st mortgage, meaning higher income for your RRSP and higher tax deductions for you personally.

So back to my comment about the financial industry not wanting you to know about holding your mortgage in your RRSP. Most industries — the financial industry perhaps more than any other — have biases. We live in a capitalist society and the financial industry benefits when you borrow your mortgage money from them and invest your RRSP money with them as well. It gives them two sources of profit, as opposed to you cutting them out and holding your mortgage in your RRSP.

But this is a great case of what sounds like a great way to stick it to the establishment that sounds good in theory, but probably is not good in practice.

Consider this: if you hold your mortgage in your RRSP, you might be borrowing at 5 per cent and investing at 5 per cent (the posted rate). But if you can instead get a regular mortgage, borrow at 2.5 per cent and ideally invest at 3 per cent, 5 per cent, or even 7 per cent, you are going to be much better off in the long run because you will make money on the spread.

On that basis, despite the appeal and despite the large number of Canadians who could hold their mortgage in their RRSP — I would think twice.

Despite the large number of Canadians who could hold their mortgage in their RRSP — I would think twice

Those most likely to benefit would be ultra-conservative investors who are unlikely to take on stock market risk. Someone with a tax-deductible mortgage on a rental property, especially if they are in a high tax bracket, is another potential candidate.

But I would generally shy away from the strategy and instead use the bank as your partner instead of your enemy. Take their cheap money as a mortgage and do your best to invest your RRSP in a diversified portfolio.

If you really want to hold a mortgage in your RRSP, I would rather see you own someone else’s mortgage and ideally as a diversified pool of mortgages like a Mortgage Investment Corporation (MIC). Better yet, consider a diversified mix of stocks and bonds at a reasonable fee that are suited to your personal risk tolerance.

-Calgary Herald